Game Day Preview: Bills

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Go North Redskins fans – to Canada – where the 3-3 Washington Redskins will take on the 4-2 Buffalo Bills, in a place called the Rogers Centre. Home to the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball team, home to the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, and more recently, home to the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills for one home game per season.

The Bills will be hunting for their first win in the Rogers Centre as they are currently 0-3 when they make the trip to Toronto. Buffalo’s 2011 squad is considerably better off than some of the Bills teams that have rolled in the last couple of years, and they will be looking to capitalize on their bye week, and jump on the struggling Redskins. Ryan Fitzpatrick will try to continue the success that has seen Buffalo’s spread offense put up the league’s fourth best points per game total at just over 31 points (31.3).

The Redskins head to Toronto, a battered and bruised bunch. Tim Hightower and Chris Cooley were added to the injured reserve list this week, and Santana Moss joins Trent Williams on the list of guys that will ‘be back soon,’ after surgery on his hand. Washington will be hoping that the offensive line that they patched together last week, can hold up again this week (see match-ups). The offense is even more decimated with injuries this week, which won’t make John Beck’s second start as the Redskins quarterback much easier.

Beck wasn’t exactly Pro Bowl material last week in the 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but if you weren’t impressed with his performance, then you were likely just expecting far too much of him. Beck did lose the ball twice on a fumble and an interception, but he also threw one touchdown and rushed for another. He wasn’t a lot better than Rex Grossman had been, but he WAS better, and he did so with basically one week of practice. This week against Buffalo, Beck should be even more comfortable after getting all of the repetitions at practice again, and having built a little confidence from an admirable debut.

At least the other changes in the offense, the loss of Cooley, Moss and Hightower, aren’t that big a deal to the quarterback’s rhythm, as Beck himself only has one game in the offense. Beck has now had a week practicing with the new cast, which is exactly the same one week that he got to practice with the old cast.

The injury to Moss likely means that Jabar Gaffney will get even more work, and hopefully Anthony Armstrong can make a mark after returning to the line-up last week. Armstrong will get some extra looks in two receiver sets with Moss out, and Beck and the rest of the Redskins offense would benefit greatly if Armstrong could stretch the defense for the Redskins offense. The Redskins will also be counting on one of the young receivers to step up, check the key match-ups for more information.

Ryan Torain will get the start at running back in place of Hightower, but which one of the two is a better feature back, depends on who you ask. For the Redskins, the answer will hopefully be Torain now that the choice has been reduced to one, unless of course rookie Roy Helu can step in and turn some heads. Helu certainly has it in him, and the Redskins obviously have plenty of confidence in his abilities, as Washington made no roster moves at running back after the injury to Hightower. It’s surprising that the Redskins didn’t even elevate rookie Evan Royster from the practice squad to give the Redskins a third running back, but instead, the Redskins will look to fullback Darrel Young should any emergency arise.

With key injuries to starters at left tackle, left guard, tight end, running back, and wide receiver, and a recent change in quarterback, the Redskins will be patched together like some football Frankenstein. Washington will be looking for some sort of offensive identity in Toronto, and luckily, they won’t be facing a very good defense while they work out the kinks.

The 2011 Bills won’t be counting on their defense to beat many people, they’re 31st overall in the NFL. With their respective passing and rushing yards allowed sitting at 31st and 31st overall, it’s safe to say that the Bills’ defense have not enjoyed the same success that their offense has. They also learned Monday that Shawne Merriman was not going to be available this week, or any other week in 2011 for that matter, as they put him on the injured reserve due to a nagging Achilles problem. His loss isn’t as significant as it would have been a few years ago, but the Bills are now pretty thin at outside linebacker, with just Chris Kelsay (who is just returning from injury), Danny Batten, and Arthur Moats. Batten went in for Kelsay when he got hurt, and is the most likely replacement for Merriman this week. Regardless, Buffalo doesn’t have much linebacker bench left, so they will be counting on both their defensive line and their secondary to step up and fill the void that their depleted linebacking corps may present (see player match-ups).

At 31 points scored per game, the Bills offense haven’t had to rely on much help from their defense anyway. Fitzpatrick has really come into his own under Chan Gailey, and the young quarterback has maximized the spread offense despite a fairly motley crew of unknown receivers. Donald Jones might be the most barely recognizable name, but he is questionable for Sunday. Stevie Johnson has emerged in 2011 as a receiver that should be a household name, his match-up below is an integral match-up this week. Running back C.J. Spiller played some at receiver in heir last game, and will continue to see time there as he did well (5 receptions, 39 yards).

It hasn’t mattered what receiver Fitzpatrick has been throwing to, they’ve all been marginally successful. Fitz has almost 1500 yards already in 2011, and has thrown 12 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Buffalo was hoping to get his contract re-done during the bye week, but didn’t, and word is that he would be getting a raise from the $3.1M that he currently gets, to somewhere in the $10M per season range. That’s a big raise, and an even bigger endorsement.

Running back Fred Jackson should get a piece of that raise – he’s been instrumental in making the Bills spread offense chug. Even after a bye week, he sits sixth overall in rushing with 601 yards on 106 carries, and has six touchdowns. His impressive 5.7 yards per carry average, is the highest of anyone with more than 100 carries. The fifth year back will present a tough challenge for a Redskins defense that has faltered the last two weeks, and allowed teams to run all over them.

Much of the success of both Fitzpatrick and Jackson, has been aided by the men that are playing directly in front of them. The Bills offensive line will be looking to keep Buffalo’s offensive juggernaut rolling. Jim Haslett and the Redskins defense will be looking to exploit any weaknesses they can find in that offense. One of those weaknesses could be at left tackle where Demetrius Bell still isn’t practicing because of a shoulder injury. Buffalo is hoping that Bell can return because the situation is further complicated by the fact that his replacement, Chris Hairston, is also hurt. If Bell can’t go, the Bills would be forced to move left guard Andy Levitre to tackle, and former Redskin Chad Rinehart would come off the bench to play guard. That could soften up the left side of the offensive line for Haslett to exploit, but he didn’t do much with an almost identical situation last week against the Panthers. Hopefully some lessons were learned. See below for more information on the match-up.

So the stage is set – the Bills have an offense that puts up points, and a defense that gives up almost as many. The Redskins are reeling after two tough losses, and have an offense decimated with injuries and a defense that can be spectacular, but has struggled of late. Buffalo would seem to have the edge if Washington’s defense holds the form of the last two weeks; however, if they can shake off a couple of bad games, and shut down Jackson, the defense could hold the key to Redskins victory in their grasp. Keeping that high-octane offense in check will go a long way in helping the Redskins try get back on the winning track up in Canada this week.

Here are this week’s key player match-ups:

Redskins Defensive Line vs Buffalo’s Offensive Line
By Andre Mitchell

There will be a lot of important match-ups in this game but this is one that I’ll keep a close eye on. The last two games against the Eagles and Panthers I’ve been very disappointed in the Redskins D-line. There were times in the Panthers game that Cam Newton could’ve baked a cake and ate it in the pocket, not to mention the Panthers and Eagles were very effective running the ball.

The Bills come in ranked 4th in the league in rushing yards per game and have allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL at only 7. None of the names on their O-line are household names but if they keep up this efficiency they may need a nickname to distinguish their line.

I’d like to see Barry Cofield collapse the pocket and get the Bills’ line out of synch. The starting D-line hasn’t been much of a problem for the Redskins; it’s usually when the reserves come in to rotate. On running plays you’ll see some of the D-line gets completely blocked out of the way creating holes. The Redskins are currently allowing a little over 117 yds on the ground per game.

The D-line has to come out playing inspired football this week after 2 straight lack-lustre performances. The task will be daunting, as a confident Bills offensive line will surely look to impose their will against a Redskins D-line that has allowed teams to get comfortable the last few weeks.

Redskins’ Pass Rush vs Bills’ Protection Scheme
By Grant Paulsen

No team has been more successful at generating sacks than the Redskins. Washington’s 21 sacks, contributed from 12 different players, are tied for the most in the NFL. The Redskins have done a nice job generating pressure off of both edges, (outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan have combined for 7.0 sacks) and the team’s revitalized defensive line has already tallied more sacks than the team’s defensive-front did throughout the entire 2010 season.

But there isn’t a tougher NFL quarterback to sack that Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo’s offensive line is good and tailback Fred Jackson is a well above average blocker in pass-protection, but nobody is more responsible for Buffalo’s league-low in sacks allowed than the quarterback himself. Fitzpatrick has attempted 202 passes and he’s been sacked just six times. The cerebral Harvard-product does a wonderful job getting the ball out quickly and not holding the ball long enough to take shots when defenders come free. The Bills’ scheme also helps him. They have an array of receivers running routes close to the line of scrimmage he can dump the ball to, and the majority of the team’s routes don’t take very long to develop.

If the Redskins are going to beat the Bills, Washington will have to do what none of Buffalo’s first six opponents have been able to: harass Fitzpatrick. If the Redskins can’t collapse the pocket and hit the 28-year-old signal caller, he’ll pick Washington’s secondary apart. The Redskins also need more turnovers. They have just eight takeaways on the season — after non getting any in Carolina. There’s no better way to force turnovers than to pressure quarterbacks into bad decisions, or to hit them while they’re trying to leave the pocket.

Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall vs Panthers WR Stevie Johnson
By Justin Partlow

In this weeks match-up the Washington Redskins are going to need a good showing from the secondary to stop the high powered Buffalo Bills offense from having a field day. The key cog to helping the Redskins this week, will be DeAngelo Hall matched up against one of the rising stars in the NFL, in Stevie Johnson.

Hall played okay last week but when as a whole secondary, you allow a rookie QB to surgically pick you apart, you didn’t play that well. This week I’m sure you’ll see more blitzes from Haslett to get pressure on Fitzpatrick, and that will then mean chances for DeAngelo to make the game-breaking play. Hall has to be careful for the double moves that Fitzpatrick and the Bills will try to use on him. I like Hall in this match-up, but it’ll be one that he’s going to be frustrated by at times, but has to continue moving forward in the game.

Now let’s get to Stevie Johnson. The man is a one-man wrecking ball at WR for the Bills, and is one of the best kept secrets in football. Known best for his terrible drop against Pittsburgh last year, Stevie has rebounded very well and proven to everyone that he is the big time receiver that the Bills had hoped he would be. What Johnson does well is use his body to shield defenders and make the tough catch. It’s almost scary how natural he makes things look as a receiver. What he’ll need to do is make sure that he gets the separation against Hall this week and make sure that DeAngelo doesn’t have a chance to make the play. Johnson could very well become a CB on some plays just not allowing Hall to make the INT.

This match-up is pretty much a wash because you’ll watch both guys make plays this week, but also you’ll see a lot of stalemates between them based on how the scheme is being designed by both Chan Gailey and Jim Haslett. Hall could end up making the big play to win the game, or Johnson could make the spectacular catch, it’s truly a guessing game on how this match-up will play out.

Redskins Wide Receivers vs Bills Secondary
By Emmanual Benton

The Buffalo Bills secondary can be characterized as opportunistic, and somewhat reminds me of the 2010 Redskins defense. Ranked 30th in pass yards allowed and 2nd in interceptions, the Bills live on taking advantage of the opposing team’s mistakes.

Buffalo gives up a lot of passing yards, which favors the Redskins 16th rated pass offense. With Washington’s Wr, Santana Moss out for 5-7 weeks… the future is now. Its time for the Redskins to utilize their young Wr’s, Terrance Austin and rookies, Niles Paul and Leonard Hankerson. If Washington’s young Wr’s can run efficient routes and finish plays by holding on to the football, they could post some impressive numbers.

The Bills tend to play a lot of off man coverage, with a single high. Expect the Redskins to work the intermediate passing game, utilizing the speed of Terrance Austin, and size of Niles Paul. Which should allow Anthony Armstrong to take the top off coverage. It will come down to execution. The Washington Redskins Wr’s must be consistent and sure handed, in order to win this battle.

Bills Defensive Line
By Kevin Ewoldt

This week we take a look at the Bills defensive line. Statistically, they look horrible (oh yeah, you know there’s a “but” coming):

– Yards per game rushing allowed (135.7) – Ranked 30th
– Rushes 20+ allowed (9) – Ranked 30th
– Passing yards per game (284.8) – Ranked 30th
– Sacks (4) – Ranked 32nd
– 1st down % allowed (38.7) – Ranked 30th


– Bills defense ranks #2 in Interceptions with 12.
– All 4 fumbles they forced they recovered
– Bills are tied for 11th in passes defended (41)…Redskins are ranked 21st with 31.
– Bills have a whopping +9 turnover ratio

So it seems rather simple. Their DLine stinks and their secondary is earning their paychecks, but don’t let that fool you. The Bills Dline has gotten pressure and batted down quite a few balls. John Beck will certainly be running and throwing on Sunday.

The Bills vs Redskins injury report reads like something out of Basra. The Redskins lost starters are well documented, but the Bills will be without starting Nose Tackle Kyle Williams, CB Aaron Williams and LB Shawn Merriman. I don’t see that as huge difference because of the NFL’s top 30 tacklers, three of them are Bills (George Wilson, Nick Barnett, and Jarius Byrd). The Redskins offense simply cannot produce, even against bad statistical defenses like we saw last week vs the Panthers. Add the fact that mismatch guru Chan Gailey has two weeks to prepare for the Skins, John Beck has his work cut out for him.

* Please note: We are very honored to have been asked by Brian Mitchell and his crew, for this Game Day Preview cast to appear on the Tailgate Show as a full panel. Check us out tonight at 7pm on

Grant Paulsen

Kevin Ewoldt

Andre Mitchell

Justin Partlow

Emmanual Benton

Mark Solway

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway

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